Tacoma Narrows Bridge lesson plans - Social Studies - Pacific Northwest History

Pacific Northwest History - Natural Resources, Ports and Railroads

The economy of the Pacific Northwest has traditionally been resource-based. The explosive growth of Northwest cities during the late 1800s and early 1900s was fueled by the extraction of natural resources in such industries as lumber, fishing, mining and agriculture.

Lesson objectives:

As a result of this lesson, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the importance of extractive resources on the development of the Pacific Northwest;
  2. Explain how the timber industry, fishing, mining and agriculture shaped the growth of the Pacific Northwest;
  3. Explain the importance of geography on the development of the Pacific Northwest;
  4. Understand why railroads were crucial to the growth of Pacific Northwest cities.


5 days or class periods, including two days research, two days preparing project, and one day to share findings with other students.

Materials needed:

Textbooks and books of other types for research, Internet access, white drawing paper, colored markers and pencils, rulers, etc.

Lesson steps:

1. Count students off by fours and assign each group an extractive resource: timber, fishing, mining, and agriculture. Ask students to research the history of these resources in the Pacific Northwest region. Have them answer the following types of questions during the course of their research.

2. Ask students to prepare a presentation explaining what they learned. They should also create a map showing the journey of their extractive resource, from beginning to end.

3. Put students in groups of four, one from each extractive resource group and have them share their findings with one another.

4. Come back together in a large group for further discussion of overarching themes and conclusions.


After the students have been working on their projects for a day or two, bring them together in a large group and ask them to help create a grading rubric. Ask them what attributes a top-quality project might have, and list those attributes on an overhead projector or white board. Possibilities might include:

Evaluate each attribute on an appropriate scale based on your own school's grading system, for example giving points or letter grades, or ask students to evaluate the projects that they observe.